10 Home Improvements to Make While Working From Home

Even before the coronavirus made most of us remote workers, the percentage of U.S. employees working from home was on the rise. With much of the American labor force converted to virtual employees during the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re seeing an unprecedented trial run for remote work on a grand scale. How this impacts our future remains to be seen, but for now, everyone is adjusting to the new normal.

If you’re looking for tips to deal with it all, consider focusing on productivity. Statistics show that home can be a more productive environment than the office. In fact, all the extra time means getting more done around your house. The time you’re saving by not commuting, going to the store, or running errands, adds more minutes each day to give to home projects. Here are 10 home improvement tips to tackle while you’re stuck at home.

1. Make a plan for wear and tear

Plan for wear and tear

Having more time at home may mean the ability to get projects done around the house, but it also means more people in the house at the same time. For longer periods.

The average family spent a lot fewer hours at home before COVID-19. Someone employed outside the home is gone for at least eight hours a day. School lasts almost seven. Evening activities for kids adds another couple hours outside the home. All combined, we weren’t home that much before.

Now, for many, home is where it’s all happening. This puts added wear and tear on your furniture, flooring, doors, fixtures, and more. Spend some time creating house rules about where everyone should spend their time and how much. Lay down some basic cleaning and maintenance tasks for the whole household. And enforce these rules with consequences if possible, even for yourself.

2. Maintain common items

Maintenance for common items

Because your home is getting more action than normal, you’ll see damage appear much quicker. A great way to address it is to keep an eye on the most common areas. If you notice a doorknob coming loose or a drip in your bathroom sink, don’t wait to repair the issue. Make sure your toolbox contains the basic items — hammer, screwdriver, and wrench — to make it easy to DIY when necessary. Household items also last longer when they’re kept clean, so make sure to not let cleaning activities lapse even as you adjust to more time at home.

3. Love your floors and carpets

Love your carpets and floors

While some things around the house are easy to clean, others require a more tedious process. Your floors for example. They’ll receive the brunt of the action as your family spends more time moving about the house. Carpets will get dirty quicker, and floors have a higher risk of being scratched. To get a little more life out of your floors there are few things you can do. First, stop letting people wear shoes inside. Shoes increase the amount of dirt and germs allowed into the house. They wear down carpets faster and can scratch or dent floors with their rough tread. For carpets, vacuum regularly to keep things clean and the carpet fluffy. Go slowly when you vacuum to make sure you pick up all the debris left behind. Sprinkle a little baking soda on your carpet beforehand to remove any odors. Floors also benefit from regular vacuuming, but also need additional spot cleaning to avoid stains.

4. Fix the squeaks and creaks

Fix the squeaks and creaks

If you find yourself puttering around the house without aim, grab a can of WD-40 and make your pacing purposeful. Little annoyances can add up over time and become big annoyances. Test every door in the house for squeaks, sounds, and awkward movements. Oil the hinges. Tighten or loosen screws as necessary. Remember to try every cabinet and closet door, too. If you have time, consider checking all your drawers to make sure they open and shut easily.

5. Regulate utility usage

Manage utilities - water and electric

Another side effect to logging more time at home is your electricity and water usage will go up. Not only will this be more expensive in terms of higher utility bills, it also wears down appliances. Managing water and electricity usage is a big area of opportunity to focus on while stuck in the house. Here are some easy tips:

  • Turn off lights when you leave a room.
  • Shut off the sink while you’re brushing your teeth.
  • Make long showers off limits. If everyone in your family cuts one minute off their daily shower, you’ll save a considerable amount of water.
  • Run the dishwasher only when it’s completely full.
  • Unplug used electronics. Standby power can account for 10 percent of your yearly electricity usage.
  • Wash everything in cold water and only run full loads of laundry. Since you aren’t going anywhere, you might even need less clothes.
  • Save energy by doing laundry, washing dishes, or running your lawn hose or sprinkler only during certain hours. For example, avoid using between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. during the peak heat of the day.

6. Check and replace your lights

Check and replace lights

Another more involved project that helps with energy consumption is to replace all your lightbulbs. If your home still uses traditional, incandescent light bulbs, you’re using way more energy than necessary to light your home. Opting for halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lights, or LEDs not only means you’re using less energy, but you’ll have to replace bulbs less often. While you’re stuck at home, take a bulb inventory and then order more energy efficient options for an easy home project with a big, long-term payoff.

7. Get outside and work the yard

Get outside and work the yard

A beautiful home exterior adds a lot of curb appeal to a house. In fact, pulling weeds, keeping bushes trimmed, and maintaining neat and tidy lawns can generate solid ROI. Are there small landscape or hardscape touches you can make? Tackle a front yard beautification project by adding some flowers or plants to your existing beds. Lay some fresh mulch as well. Address patches of dead grass or weeds. Put stones to good use by creating pathways or divisions between plants. Create the best first impression of your home with a beautiful, colorful front yard. But don’t just think about form, consider function, too. For example, now is the perfect time to plant summer vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Section off a portion of your backyard for a home garden. Grab some nutrient-rich soil and your favorite fruits and veggies. You can either start from seeds or get small plants ready to go. Just don’t forget to regularly water.

8. Don’t forget your sinks and faucets

Dont forget sinks and faucets

You may not realize it, but during this crazy time you’re probably using your bathroom a lot more than usual. Take a few extra steps to ensure that you’re keeping everything in top condition. Leave a spray bottle and some wipes near sinks and pass them over regularly. Check for missing faucet parts. Listen for leaks and look for water pooling anywhere. Remember that hardware stores are still open, but consider using Amazon or another delivery service if you need some cleaning products, parts, or maintenance supplies. Apply caulk as needed.

Read more: Kitchen and Bathroom Maintenance and Care

9. Address basic safety and security

Address safety and security

If you have nagging safety issues in the house you’ve been putting off fixing, there is no better time than the present. Check and replace batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. How are the handrails on all your staircases holding up? Replace the air filters in your air conditioning or HVAC system. Ensure you have good ventilation in your bathrooms. Inspect overhead fans for loose screws. Take a look in your unfinished basement or crawl space for water entry, or unwanted invaders. Make sure all the locks on doors and windows are functioning properly.

10. Tackle ‘on-hold’ home projects

Tackle a home project

Once you’ve instituted a new routine that helps keep energy usage low and the house a bit cleaner, it’s time to tackle those bigger home projects you’ve let sit. Start by giving your house a good once-over to really check its status. Inspect the foundation for any cracks, check pipes for any leaks, and make sure everything looks in working order. Also, inspect your interior and think about whether to give any rooms an update. If things are looking a little drab, consider adding a fresh coat of paint to a room or two. You’ve got the time to spread a project like this over several days. Move furniture away from walls and tape off edges on day one. Apply primer if needed day two. Paint on at least two coats of the new color on day three. Putting in a little time each day will make this project easier to complete, leaving you with a fresh and beautiful “new” room.

More home improvement inspiration from Sundae:

Our Secrets on Affordable Home Design

How to Get the Look for Less

Affordable Alternatives to Renovating

Should I Remodel My House Before Selling?

A happy home in uncertain times

Keeping your home clean and well-maintained, even with the extra time you’re spending in it, makes it a happier place. Take a little time to refresh how it looks or add something new you’ve been thinking about. These little steps keep you occupied and busy during a time when boredom or anxiety can set in. Moreover, simple home improvement projects like these add value to your house when it comes time sell.

For more ideas about how to spruce up your home, read our article on interior design the Sundae way. And if you’re thinking about selling your house, consider selling on Sundae’s marketplace.

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Kyle Spearin

Kyle is Sundae's Real Estate Editor. As both an investor and content marketing professional, Kyle combines his passion for real estate investing and educational background with his love of helping others. His experience with real estate tech companies, including contributing to BiggerPockets Pro, gives him insight into markets across the United States.